Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Public Comments TWIC Reader ANPRM – 05-15-09

There were two comments posted this week on the Coast Guard’s TWIC Reader ANPRM. Additionally, the Coast Guard posted a copy of the slides that were used in the public meeting held on May 6th. The comments were received from: MC Morris Tovah LaDier MC Morris Comments Sometimes I begin to wonder who is doing the listing of comments at Regulations.gov. Typically they list organization comments submitted on organization letterhead by the organization name. Otherwise they use the name of the person signing the letter. This letter was signed by MC Morris “By Direction”. The letterhead was from “Commander, Military Sealift Command”. The “By Direction” makes this an official submission by that command. The MSC comment notes that it is not clear whether or not the rules apply to “public vessels and shore activities maintained by the Department of Defense”. They would like to see it explicitly stated that the TWIC Reader rule does not apply to DOD facilities and vessels. Tovah LaDier Comments Again I have an issue with the misleading listing of this comment on Regulations.gov. The document is a copy of the prepared testimony (apparently from the May 6th public meeting) of Megan Gajewski “on behalf of Tovah LaDier” the managing director of the International Biometric Industry Association. It should probably have been listed as IBIA comments. The IBIA notes that:
There are already TWIC Readers commercially available; Vessels and facilities should be allowed to use commercially available TWIC Readers while TSA is ‘evaluating’ TWIC Readers; and The IBIA disagrees with allowing Risk Group B vessels and facilities to only biometrically verify identity ‘randomly once per month’ under MARSEC 1 conditions
My Comments on Comments It should go without saying that the TWIC rules do not apply to military vessels. It is not clear that all of the vessels in being addressed in the MSC letter strictly fall under that description. As long as the MSC vessels are operating out of Navy ports, there not having TWICs will not be a problem. However, I believe that these vessels frequently operate out of civilian ports. For non-military crews to not have TWIC or an operationally equivalent ID could cause some problems in that situation. This certainly needs to be addressed in the NPRM. The IBIA comments about the current availability of TWIC readers are a tad bit self-serving. They note that there are at least 17 models that have successfully undergone TSA ‘laboratory testing’, so they could be voluntarily used by MTSA covered facilities while TSA completes their more extensive ‘functional and environmental’ testing. While I agree that such voluntary interim use could provide valuable information for TSA rule development efforts, I am not sure why the IBIA is making that comment here. TSA is unlikely to ‘officially’ approve voluntary interim use, but it certainly has not prohibited that use. Individual Captains of the Port may currently authorize that interim use as part of facility or vessel security plan approval process. The purpose of the environmental and operational testing being conducted by TSA is to ensure that TWIC readers will reliably work in the sometimes challenging environment associated with port facilities and ships. TSA does not want to require the use of equipment that cannot survive for a reasonable period of time in that environment. Justifiably, IBIA member companies would like to recoup their investments in TWIC Reader developments sooner rather than later. Selling them before they are approved or required could be a challenge for the best sales person, but TSA is not going to ‘authorize’ interim use to aid sales. One minor comment on the Coast Guard meeting slides. Whoever put this .PDF document together oriented the slides so that they show up in the .PDF Reader software rotated 90 degrees out of standard. This means that you have to play with the size controls and turn your head sideways to be able to read the slides. This is the first time that I have seen PowerPoint® slides displayed this way in a .PDF file. It is certainly not user friendly. Not only was this poor attention to detail on the part of the preparer, but who ever approved this document for release needs to be hung from the modern equivalent of the yard arm.

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